Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Things Canadian in the News Today

  So US President George Bush visited Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin in Ottawa today. (Did you notice that 78.6% of the words in that sentence are capitalised? I write about important stuff!) It seems he was met by as many as five thousand protesters, most of them university students who won't have an iota of a clue how the real world works for several years to come, but feel the need to impose their hopelessly naive and idealistic views on anybody who will listen. Until the police pulled out the riot gear and tear gas guns. Miraculously, the crowd disappated like a fart on a windy morning. A report I read said that three protesters were arrested. Out of five thousand. Yes, you read that correctly. Six one-hundredths of one percent of the protesters had the intestinal fortitude to truly stand up for what they believe in. The rest of them went for a latte at Starbucks in the Glebe.
  On a more serious note, and one of far more importance to Canadians, Pierre Berton succumbed to old age today. He was eighty-four. If Canadians have any kind of a national identity, it was because of Pierre Berton. His many books on Canadian history, like The National Dream, The Last Spike, and Vimy brought our past to life for people in a way no one else has ever accomplished. Every Canadian is a lesser person today.

Book List

  OK, here's me breaking one of my rules again. I don't usually do these blog 'memes,' but reading is somewhat of a passion for me. I pilfered this list from Elizabeth's journal. She doesn't know where she got it, but I think we can safely say it's been floating around the blogosphere for some time. Liz has surmised that it's a list of classics, and it may have started out that way, but that description no longer applies. I mean, it's got Harry Potter on it, doesn't it? I have simplified it somewhat as I'm not going to separate the titles into favourites, super favourites, and ultimate all time favourites. I'll just mark off the ones I've read. Another twist: I've added several books to the list that weren't previously on it, but that I recommend. If you want to know which ones, you'll have to copy the list off of Elizabeth yourself and compare. On second thought, it may just be obvious.

Bold  = Books I've read

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Animal Farm, George Orwell
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
The BFG, Roald Dahl
Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
Bleak House, Charles Dickens
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
Catch 22, Joseph Heller
The Catcher In The Rye, JD Salinger
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas

Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky
David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes
Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
Dune, Frank Herbert
Emma, Jane Austen
Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
The Fionavar Tapestry, Guy Gavriel Kay 
Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
The Godfather, Mario Puzo
Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, JK Rowling
Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
His Dark Materials trilogy, Philip Pullman
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Douglas Adams
The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
Holes, Louis Sachar
I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
Katherine, Anya Seton
The Last Light Of The Sun, Guy Gavriel Kay
The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, CS Lewis
The Lions Of Al Rassan, Guy Gavriel Kay

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
The Lord Of The Rings, JRR Tolkien
Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blighton
Magician, Raymond E Feist
The Magus, John Fowles
Matilda, Roald Dahl
Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
Middlemarch, George Eliot
Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
Mort, Terry Pratchett
Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
On The Road, Jack Kerouac
One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Perfume, Patrick Suskind
Persuasion, Jane Austen
The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett

A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
Pride And Prejudice, Jane Austen
The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
The Ragged Trousered Philantrhopists, Robert Tressell
Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier
The Sarantine Mosaic, Guy Gavriel Kay
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Secret History, Donna Tartt
The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
A Song For Arbonne, Guy Gavriel Kay
The Stand, Stephen King
The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Tess Of The D'urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay
To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee

A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
The Twits, Roald Dahl
Ulysses, James Joyce
Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
War And Peace, Leo Tolstoy
Watership Down, Richard Adams
The Wind In The Willows, Kenneth Grahame
Winnie-the-Pooh, AA Milne

The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

  I do not have any body modifications, although I'm trying to lose a few pounds.

Monday, November 29, 2004

More fridge magnet poetry

Sorry, I can't be bothered to go through the painful exercise that is trying to crop a screen capture in MS-Paint. Just click the link:

The Fridge poem (untitled)

That 'revelations' wordset was challenging to work in. And why the heck do they give you 17 instances of the word "and" but only one instance of the word "god?"
Huh? Huh?

Futility thy name is civil service

Government workers survive only through an ironic fault of our species, in that we only demand competency in the most inconsequential aspects of our lives. Put up a headline declaring criminal misuse of our tax dollars and we’ll shake our heads with a knowing, rueful smile; deliver our pizzas fifteen minutes late and we’re making long distance calls to Papa John’s head office to issue the sort of threats that’d make Charles Bronson look at us awkwardly.
Jay Pinkerton

Is this behaviour exclusive to Canadians, or is it more universal? In my second ever entry into this journal, I scribbled a couple of lines about Canada's last federal election, and how we love to stick it to ourselves over and over again. Now, after reading Jay's article about waiting in line in a government office, and nodding to myself the whole time, I have to wonder: are we all saps, or just the Canadians among us?

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Poetry a go go

John Scalzi brings to our attention the Online Fridge Magnet Poetry tool. I bring to your attention my contribution to the world of Online Fridge Magnet Poetry. This is kinda fun. Thanks, John.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Weekend Assignment #36: Scalzi's Mug O' Change

Weekend Assignment #36: I have a mug on my desk with $70.65 in change in it. What should I do with the money? The only unacceptable answer is "give it to me." Honestly. You can do better.

  You should donate it to charity, of course. It's a perfect opportunity. It's basically found money, a windfall of sorts. I mean, you didn't miss it when you tossed it in there sixty-two cents at a time, did you? Now it's a half decent chunk o' change capable of really helping someone. And this is the time of year to help, isn't it. I've got the perfect beneficiary in mind: a fellow AOLer who's been through a horrible illness and could use assistance. Her screen name is MzGoochi, but pretty near everybody knows her as Lahoma, and there is a homegrown drive in the AOL journals community to help her and her son have a Merry Christmas. If you are interested, e-mail me and I will get the pertinent details to you. Won't get you a tax receipt, but the warm fuzzy feeling you get from helping a friend is worth twice that.

Extra Credit: If you've got a picture of your own loose change storage device, show it.

  You shouldn't discount the pennies, you know. They take longer to accumulate, but you miss them less, and when you do count them up, you can get quite a pleasant surprise. When I was single, and living at home with my parents, I dug a couple of two gallon wine jugs out of the cellar, kinda like this one, and stated throwing my pennies into them. Just pennies, no silver. When my wife and I moved into our first apartment, we counted them up. I had one bottle full and capped, and the other one almost there. I can't remember exactly how much was there, but it was more than $100. 

  These days we throw our loose change into a plastic salsa jar in the pantry in our kitchen. It never adds up to much as we dig into it when we need change for a coffee, or a stamp. I counted it up today, and it came to$38.35. Now my hands smell like pennies.
  Why do pennies smell different than every other coin? I remember those big bottles of pennies. The smell of copper pennies is like no other smell in the world. Or maybe it isn't the copper. I understand there isn't actually very much copper in those things anymore. Just like there isn't much in the way of nickel in- Wait! you say. How does the little drib drab of change in that salsa jar add up to over thirty-eight dollars? Remember, I'm in Canada. We haven't used bills for ones and twos in years. All those Loonies and Twonies add up in a hurry.
  Don't know what a Loonie or a Twonie is? That's an entry for another day.

The writing is on the car

  This morning I stood by the side door of the house, coffee in one hand, lunch bag in the other, and herded my ten year old out the door. I then strolled to the front window to watch him walk across the street to the school. He was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he was already across the street and out of sight behind the school? Not my son, sister. He's the only kid I know who takes ten minutes to put on his shoes, and he doesn't even do up the laces. A mystery!
  I trundled over to the kitchen window to see what was holding his attention. He was doing this:


  The trials and tribulations of parenthood are many and daunting. But the rewards, oh the rewards!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Perhaps a calming influence

  Well, folks, it is that time again. Tempers are flaring. Blood is boiling over. Sock puppets are being created at a furious pace. Reverse epithets abound. The message board moderators have been called out of hibernation. I think everybody needs...

...puppy pictures!

  If y'all haven't met Shadow before, he is a (now) five month old cross between a Border collie and an Australian shepherd. This picture of the poor little fellow was taken about a month ago. He is not a fan of the water. When his friends go into the lake after a stick or a ball he runs up and down the shore barking at them. My guess would be he is madly trying to explain to them the danger of their chosen course of action. Or he could just be saying "woof, woof!"
  And for those of you who would like more information about my family, you can clearly see my wife's hands in this picture. They are the ones massaging Mango/Papaya shampoo with conditioner into Shadow's delicate fur. She buys the Sam's Club house brand generic shampoo for me to use.
  Here is the little guy about the same time, or a week or two later, experiencing his first snowfall. He spent a good hour outside catching snowflakes in his mouth. Remember the way we did it as kids, standing there with our tongues out trying to get one of the fluttery little bastards to land on them? Shadow is a little more proactive than that. He snaps them out of the air with a jaw clack that will make you shake.
  One of the snowflakes was caught falling directly past his face by the camera. It kinda looks like he's crying, doesn't it? Or I guess that could be ghost. (shhhh. I didn't really say that out loud did I?)
  This picture shows the spots coming out all over his front legs. When we got him, his legs and underbelly were snow white, but as time has gone on, more and more black spots have shown up. This picture also displays his white chest. I call it his shirt front. I'm looking for a black collar that has a bowtie attached, but I can't seem to find one. I may have to actually buy a real bowtie for him, just because that is the kind of stupid stuff pet owners do that other people roll their eyes at.
  Here he is yesterday, sitting in the November sunlight, wondering why I'm playing with that silver flashy thing instead of throwing the ball for him. He is pretty good with 'sit' and 'lie down' and is learning 'stay.' The problem we run into is with 'come.' Both the Border collie and Australian shepherd  are considered to be among the most intelligent dog breeds available. It means he learns new commands very readily. Many other dog owners have expressed astonishment at how well trained he is for a five month old puppy. Unfortunately, he also thinks he is smart enough to decide when to obey a command and when to not. 
  He'll be lying in the back yard, chewing on a stick, barking at squirrels. (Y'all wondered when I would fit squirrels into a journal entry, didn't you?) I'll stick my head out the side door and holler, "Shadow, come!" He'll look up at me for a second, then go back to his bark dessert. I can almost hear him saying, "I'm busy!" Or maybe that was just "woof, woof" again.
  Now, doesn't everybody feel better. My instuments tell me that the cuteness quotient of this entry has put smiles on 64.8% of all those readers who arrived frowning. As for the other 35.2%, well, some people are just selohssa.

See you.

More puppy pics can be found here, here, and here.

All the news that's fit to print?

Headline: Vanilla Ice In Trouble With Law Again.

Story: Vanilla Ice's pets escaped, and he may have to pay a fine for letting them run free.

  I am getting so sick and tired of this kind of irresponsible journalism. It's not bad enough that the headline is deliberately inflammatory, but the story isn't even remotely newsworthy. The only reason they ran it was so they could use that headline. What happened to the good old days, when the newspapers reported the news?

Saturday, November 20, 2004

F#@& the South

I don't really like blogs that seem to have no other purpose but to post links to other things on the the internet. I much prefer to read, and to be a blog that generates original content. But I absolutely had to pass this on:


Now before you go clicking willy nilly, be aware that there is a significant amount of profanity in the above linked rant. Screw that, it's all profanity. The whole freakin' think is one long curse. If you are easily offended by off-colour language, do not click on that link. Oh, and if you're a republican, just don't bother, OK. I guarantee that you will not enjoy it, so you should probably just go somewhere else right now.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Christmas Music

  A recent discussion turned to Christmas music. It may be too early for many of you, but I love Christmas music. With one caveat. I worked in retail for 20 plus years, and this time of year, retailers are working hard trying to get their customers into a Christmas shopping frame of mind, so the Christmas music tend to come out early. In an effort to maintain sanity in the face of 8-12 hours of Christmas music daily we went looking for more interesting music.
  From the owner's perspective, his customer is only in the store for 15-30 minutes at a time, so any Christmas music will do. My boss tended to put on the local EZ-Rock radio station that played Christmas music 24-7 starting about September, it seemed. Of course, for the employees, the radio station tended to repeat the same songs on about an hourly cycle, and usually the sappiest ones were played most often. After about three days, we were ready to put our heads through the plate glass front window. The solution was a multi-disc CD player, and a wide variety of Christmas CDs. Everybody would bring in their collection, and we would load up a jukebox style CD player with about 30 CDs and put it on random play. That way, you might not hear the same song repeated for three or four days. Of course, by late December we had still heard every song it seemed like 100 or more times, but by then it was so busy we didn't really have time to think about it.
  With thirty Christmas CDs in one place, it's hard not to have some amount of redundancy, so we would try and find Christmas CDs that were a little out of the ordinary. That led to my personal tradition of buying myself a new Christmas CD every year. A new and interesting Christmas CD that is. This year's purchase will be my 20th Christmas CD. Now I didn't buy all of those. A couple were freebies from suppliers. A couple were freebies (with purchase from some store or another), and a couple were gifts. I believe this year will be the twelfth in a row I have purchased one(1) new Christmas CD for the sake of tradition. Here are a few of my favourites.

The Blind Boys Of Alabama-- Go Tell It On The Mountain.
The Blind Boys of Alabama have spread the spirit and energy of pure soul gospel music for over 60 years, ever since the first version of the group formed at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939. Today, founding members Clarence Fountain, Jimmy Carter and George Scott are joined by more recent arrivals Joey Williams, Ricky McKinnie, Bobby Butler, and Tracy Pierce on a mission to expand the audience for traditional soul-gospel singing while incorporating contemporary songs and innovative arrangements into their hallowed style.

Various Artists-- Merry Axemas- A Guitar Christmas.
The world's favorite instrument and its highest holiday come together in a rocking musical celebration. It's an event which highlights the heartwarming sounds of the Christmas season, while dazzling and delighting fans of great guitar music: Merry Axemas features some of the world's finest guitarists putting a bold new stamp on beloved traditional carols. -
-note: While it isn't explicitly stated in the description of the album, they mean electric guitar, and the artists featured include Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jeff Beck, and Joe Satriani. There's no Segovia here.

Loreena McKennitt-- To Drive The Cold Winter Away
Loreena’s second, self-produced recording presents seasonal music with a fresh and serendipitous approach. This collection of traditional and lesser-known winter and Christmas carols was recorded in 1987 on location at The Church Of Our Lady in Guelph, Ontario, and, in Ireland, a Benedictine monastery and The Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig.

The Vince Guaraldi Trio-- A Charlie Brown Christmas ( The original sound track recording of the CBS television special)
If anything deserves the meme descriptor, it is the jazz arrangements of traditional favourites and original compositions that are immediately recognised by anyone who's ever watched a TV Christmas special. Guaraldi went on to work on several more Charlie Brown televisions specials.

Various Artists- A Very Special Christmas
2004 marks the ninth edition of the Very Special Christmas series, which features pop artists performing both traditional and contemprorary songs. Proceeds from the sale of these discs are donated to The Special Olympics. This year's offering appears to showcase artists like Mary J. Blige, Norah Jones, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, and others.
I have the original AVSC CD and AVSC3.

Yeah, yeah. I know it's early. Merry Christmas anyway.

Invocation update

  Simon is just too quick. He sent me an e-mail the other day at 9:11am thanking me for pointing out the anonymous blog Corpse Countdown. He sent me another one at 1:40pm, a mere 4-1/2 hours later, telling me he had figured out who it belonged to. Smartypants!

  On the internet invocation front, I have, sadly, to report that I have nothing to report. None of the several personages I mentioned in the two invocation entries have deigned to drop by and read what I wrote about them. Or, they all have, but have not contacted me to let me know through some evil desire to mess up the sample. Just so as to remind everybody who they were, and to put their names back up on the front page for a search engine to find, they are listed below.

Guy Gavriel Kay

Clinton Hammond

Curtis Joseph

Gordon Little

Mark Hamill

Joey DeVilla

Monday, November 15, 2004

Telemarketing folly

  I must say, I love the new phone system most telemarketing firms are using now. In order to maximize the productivity of their operators, these parasitic companies have implemented a very sophisticated computerized connection system. A computer automatically dials telephone numbers, and listens for the phone to be picked up. If it gets no answer, or hears a busy signal, it moves on to the next number. If the phone is answered, it momentarily places the call on hold while it transfers to a live, blood sucking, almost human person. That process takes at least two seconds. Sometimes longer. They are allowed by law for that pause to last as long as ten seconds, but two seconds is plenty of time for my purposes. Most calls go like this:

telephone: ring ring
me: hello?
telemarketing company:
two seconds of silence
me: click

  It's almost poetry. I don't have to listen to any lies, like we're calling because someone in your household completed a survey, or we're working in your area currently and can offer you savings. Just an instant of silence, and it's over. I get a wonderful feeling hanging up on telemarketers normally. Imagine how I feel hanging up on them before they even say a word. It's delightful, it's delovely, it's dewonderful. It defreakin' rocks! Sure, I might occasionally hang up on a friend who was momentarily distracted just as I answered the phone, but they'll call back. I'll explain what happened and we'll both get a chuckle out of it. There's just too much upside to worry about that.
  Like all good things, however, it will come to an end. As more and more people catch on, and start hanging up immediately when their 'hello' is not instantly returned, the telemarketers will have to try something new. But until they do, I'm enjoying not having to actually hear their annoying voices. It's making my days much, much brighter.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


Most onerous malapropism in the blogosphere: meme.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Three things

1) I changed the title of my journal. I'm not sure if I'm gonna stick with it or not. You may see the old name back again next week. Why don't you guys let me know what you think. (edit Nov. 14--I changed it back)

2) I added a couple of new links in the other journals section. The latest one is called Corpse Countdown. It is sub-titled Until that which was me is gone. On the masthead he says, "One day I will die. Here is my blog leading up to that point." Although I am prohibited from naming the author, I recommend you give him a read.

3) Weekend Assignment #33: You can have any person, past or present, sing any song for you that you want. What is the song, and who is singing it for you?

Extra credit: Name a singer you wish you could sing like, but can't. So that means even those of you with excellent voices have to pick someone you can't sing like.

  I skipped last week's assignment for a couple of reasons. First, I'm not an American, and don't have enough of a handle on the important issues facing the nation to comment. Although, come to think of it, neither does the existing President. (OK, that was uncalled for.) And  second, I didn't want to be included in the group of AOL journallers that would leap to complete that particular assignment. I'm a moderate. Live and let live, and all that jazz.
  That being said, last week's assignment has filtered down and coloured my imagination this week. I've never been a president of anything; not even the high school smoking team, or the neighbourhood cat walking club. Nevertheless, I would choose to have Marilyn Monroe sing Happy Birthday Mr. President to me. In private. Hubba Hubba.

  Extra credit question? I can't sing. Not a lick. I do sing; in the shower, in the car. If anybody is ever around, I tend to get hit by flying rubber boots, or cabbages, or the neighbour's cat. It really is that bad. I love music. I love to sing. But I suck at it. So I'm not choosy. I'd just like to be able to sing. However choice is the name of the game here. If I could have any voice I wanted, I'd want Robert Plant's voice.
Lighten up lady I'm in love with you.
photo by Barrie Wentzell

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Paul's Awards Show

  Several weeks ago, when there was some j-land drama flapping in the breeze regarding various unsanctioned "AOL journals awards" being presented by some AOL members, I started collecting ideas for things that I'd like to present awards to. I was going to write a journal entry full of hilarious parody and biting satire, but I procrastinated, and it all blew over. So here I am, weeks later, with a text file full of silly and irrelevant "best of" type observations, and a sense that they are no longer topical. So why post them now? Because I owe you guys an update, and I have nothing better to say.

So. With no further gilding the lily, and with out any more ado, I now present to you: Paul's Very Important Awards For Outstanding Deeds, Achievements, And Stuff.

Please welcome our award presenter, the lovely and talented Miss Vanna White. ::applause::

Vanna: Smiles and waves.

Our first award of the night comes in the category Best Cover Of A Jimi Hendrix Song By A Now Defunct Canadian Swing Band. And the winner is: Purple Haze by The Jive Kings. ::applause:: Unfortunately, upon notification that they had won this award, none of the members of The Jive Kings returned our e-mails, so this award will be accepted on behalf of The Jive Kings by Rick Mercer.

Rick Mercer: As a former host of the Canadian East Coast Music Awards show, I was once in the same room as The Jive Kings, and I can say without reservations that they are great group of kids. I would just like to thank Paul for this award, and seeing as those no good punks didn't see fit to show up here, this will look great siting on my mantlepiece.

Vanna: Smiles and waves.

Thank you Rick. Our next award is the coveted Best New Ice Cream Marketing Idea That's Making Me Eat Too Much Of The Stuff award. And the winner is: Chocolate Bar Flavours. ::applause:: Well done! As we didn't have a clue who was responsible for this innovation in the marketing of ice cream, this award will be graciously accepted on behalf of Chocolate Bar Flavours by The Committee To Elect Paul Little King Of The World! ::massive applause::

Vanna: Smiles and waves.

Thank you very much. Now ladies and gentlemen we come to our next award: Best AnimeDaytime Cartoon ... Just kidding. It is actually time to take a break and hear from our sponsors. Stay tuned, we'll be right back.

Lack of Drama got you down?
Are your message boards dull and colourless? Do you regularly click "mark all read" because you just have no interest? You need AOL Journals message board. Twice the Drama and three times the pettiness of other message boards. Thrill to pointless political diatribes by both right wing and left wing whack jobs. Delight in baseless accusations of cloning and sockpuppetry. Participate in a lively match of Butcher The English Language. Listen to the Whoosh! as jokes go right over people's heads. AOL Journals message board. Drama, made simple.

Disclaimer: Aurora Walking Vacation makes no guarantees, expressed or implied, that you will find sufficient drama to suit your needs on the AOL Journals message board. You may have to create your own drama.

Welcome back to Paul's Very Important Awards For Outstanding Deeds, Achievements, And Stuff. During the break, several minor technical awards were given out. Let's watch now as those awards are summarized by Callista Flockhart. What's that? Oh, we'll have to go to Callista later, folks. Apparently she turned sideways and now nobody can find her. OK, moving on, let's present the award for The Most Surreal Sports Experience By A Former Neighbour. And the winner of that award is: Jay Kerr at a West Virginia college football game where the crowd broke into a sponataneous rendition of John Denver's Take me home, country road. Later we'll go to our WV analyst, Lahoma Taylor, who will be completely unable to justify that behaviour.

Vanna: Smiles and waves.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, that brings us to the final award of the night: The Bogart Movie I Like Better Than Casablanca. And the winner is: The Maltese Falcon. ::applause:: Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for tuning in to Paul's Very Important Awards For Outstanding Deeds, Achievements, And Stuff. I think I can safely say that the evening has been an unqualified success, even though Dan Quayle did not attend. Have a good night, and we'll see you next year when our Master of Ceremonies will be Billy Idol. ::applause::

Thursday, November 4, 2004

A reply to fv

  In a recent e-mail, a friend ... internet acquaintance? ... friend, Francois Vincent, said:

PS: I'd post to your blog but I can't.

PPS: really, why are you using AOL?? didn't you do any research
beforehand? ;)

Well, there is a story there.

Wait, you say. Why are you replying to a private e-mail in your journal?

Well, if you remember my entry on writing and ideas, you will know. I gotta take the inspiration wherever I find it.

  So. It was about five or six years ago when my wife and I decided to join the information superhighway. OK, so it was more like my wife let me
get the Internet at home. I had virtually no experience online, and didn't know what service to get, and AOL always had those CDs floating around offering a bajillion hours free, so the choice seemed easy. And it was easy. That's one thing that's always true about AOL: it's easy to use. Pop the CD into the computer, and follow the on screen instructions, and bingo; you are online.
  There are many Internet service providers out there, many of them substantially less expensive than AOL, and most of them offer a free one month trial, so I decided to cancel the AOL after a month and try a few others to see how they were. Anyone who has ever tried to cancel AOL before will be smiling right now. What's that, sir? You want to cancel? Well, why don't we give you another free month? In fact, make it two months. If you try, it's possible to milk them for as much as six months of free service. I've heard people boasting of longer terms than that.
  Finally, after I had exhausted AOL's generosity, they let me quit and try out other services. You know, for someone who is only just barely computer literate, going from AOL to almost anything else is a pretty big shock to the system. What do you mean I have to configure my e-mail client? Not only do I not know how to do that, I don't have a clue what the hell that even means. The other thing about the World Wide Web, for someone who cut their teeth on AOL, is that it is a sea of information, with little or no organisation. Learning how to find the kinds of things you are looking for can be a frustrating endeavour. That's another thing AOL does well. They have a lot of content, already well organised for you. And it is reliable content, unlike what you might find casting randomly about the web.
  As all this was going on, another problem developed. I was spending a lot of time online, and my wife kept getting told by people that they were trying to call us, and could never get through. Bell Canada to the rescue! Bell offered us a new service they had developed called Internet Call Display. Whenever a computer user was online, and a telephone call came in, this service would alert you with an on screen message, and allow you to sign off the Internet and take the call. I'm not exactly sure, but I think Bell Canada saved my marriage.
  After several months of alternative ISP service, my wife asked me to go back to AOL. She liked the organised content they provided. She knew how to send and receive e-mail with AOL. No problem. I cancelled whatever service we had been using, and came back to AOL. Problem. The Bell Internet Call Display service did not work very well. According to a technician I spoke to, the AOL software has a way of masking your IP address, and that was causing ICD to have fits. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. We muddled along with it for quite some time, until one day Bell Canada called to offer us a special discounted rate on their Sympatico High Speed service. With DSL service only slightly more expensive than what we were currently paying for AOL dial-up, and the promise of eliminating our telephone problems, we once again bid adieu to AOL. (Actually, I just reduced AOL to a $6.95 a month basic maintenance package until I was sure I wanted to cancel).
  I never cancelled. My wife and son started complaining about the way the new service worked. Sending and receiving e-mail was more complicated. Again, my wife missed the AOL content. As well, my son was getting older, and becoming more adept at computer use. AOL's parental controls were very attractive. I investigated AOL Broadband service, but it wasn't available in my area, so I put them off. And I put them off, until one day I received an e-mail from AOL informing me that AOL-DSL had recently become available in my town. So here I am.
  There are still some things I do not like about AOL. I don't like that non-AOL users cannot leave comments in my journal. (So I put in an e-mail link). I don't like AOL's newsgroup interface. (So I'm not using newsgroups anywhere near as much as I used to anyway). I don't like AOL's built-in web browser. (So I minimise it and use IE).
  There are some things I do like about AOL. I like the e-mail client. I like the parental controls. I like how my wife has stopped bugging me to check her e-mail for her. Why, they have even started to crack down on spam. Will wonders never cease?

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Post election musings

On the electoral system

  The United States of America has got to come up with a better system of voting for the office of President. The current system is broken, and probably beyond repair. This is another example of progress not necessarily being a good thing. Hanging chads, crashed hard drives, ineligible absentee or provisional ballots, challengers at the polls, two to three hour waits at polling stations, these things should be embarrassing to all Americans.
  One of the biggest problems is the complexity of the ballot. There are so many things to vote for that electronic tabulation is the only feasible method of counting the ballots. In Columbus, Ohio, there were something like 34 different items on the ballot. No wonder there was a three hour wait at some polls. Even if you know exactly how you want to vote on each issue, it still takes three or four minutes just to make all of the selections. And for those who aren't quite sure of some of the issues, or even how to use the balloting equipment... Some poll workers said that the average voting time in Ohio was six to nine minutes. Given the number of polling booths available, and the average time to cast a single ballot, many polling stations were physically unable to process even fifty per cent of the people on their voters lists.
  We are talking about electing the President of the United States of America here, the most powerful man in the entire world. What is at stake, the world over, is far too important for these kinds of problems to be allowed to occur. Need to elect a new county sheriff, or dogcatcher? Need to vote on how funding for the local zoo will be collected? Want to decide whether or not to sell alcohol on a Sunday? Do it another day. Take all the little shit off the ballot. Here in Canada, when we hold a federal election, we are handed a paper ballot with the names of the candidates printed on it in extremely large type, and a big empty circle beside each name. We are given a fat black pencil and explicit instructions: "mark an "X" inside the circle beside one(1) name." That's it. No punch card machines or computer touchscreens. No levers to pull or buttons to press. Make your mark, fold your ballot, and place it in the box. Average time to cast a ballot: about 45 seconds. If we want to elect new city councillors, or new members of provincial parliament, or have a referendum on nationalsovereignty, we hold a different election for that.

On the outcome

   This election was the Democrats' to lose. For that matter, the last election was the Democrats' to lose. For George Bush to have won with barely 50% of the popular vote against John Kerry, or with less than 50% of the popular vote against Al Gore is very telling. All the Democrats had to do was actually field a strong candidate and the election was theirs. It's not going to get any easier. In 2008 Bush will no longer be allowed to run (unless he declares himself emperor) and the Democrats may have to face ::gasp:: Colin Powell. Has there been a bigger American Hero in the last 50 years? Better start thinking about it now. I don't know if Hillary will be good enough.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004


   My son has been studying the Canadian Government in his Grade 5 class at school. He recently brought home a test he had written on the subject. The questions were numbered 1,2,3,3,4,5,5. Yes, these are the people teaching our children. He scored 83% on the test, but I'm not sure what that means coming from a teacher who, apparently, has difficulty counting to seven.

I thought I'd share with you one of Matthew's responses. I think it was to question #5. One of them, anyway.

Q. List the six steps a bill goes through to become a law.

A. 1) first someone decides to make the bill
     2) second it's checked over
     3) it's sent to the house of commons then it's voted on 3 times
     4) if it's passed it goes to the senate for 3 more votes
     5) then it's checked over again
     6) then the governor general sings it

Governor General sings it. And I thought government was boring. I'm going to have to watch CPAC more often.

Monday, November 1, 2004

The Return of Tennis Elbow

   Some of you may remember my entry of several months ago about Tennis Elbow. Due to the affliction in my left elbow, I was forced to forego playing golf for the entire summer this year. I was disappointed about that, but the fact that rehabilitation appeared to be successful prior to the start of the curling season somewhat mitigated my consternation. (I felt better)
   Now, barely four weeks into the 2004/2005 curling season I am being bothered by Lateral Epicondylitis once again; in my right elbow! In keeping with AOL's policy of allowing mild profanity in journals I feel somewhat safe in expostulating: "Drat! Egad! Gee Wiz!" You can see that I'm upset. This game might actually be the death of me. Worse, I might have to go as far as admitting that I'm getting old and have to slow down.
   Never! I will not go gentle into that dark night. I will rage, rage against my body's weakened plight. At least until someone says, "shut up you annoying old man."

   Some of you may also have noticed that I have joined in on the trend of putting a close-up photograph of a part of my face in the about me section of my journal. Rest assured that my participation in this fashion ensures its immediate falling out of favour with the blogging community. Almost certainly, the best bloggers removed their close-up photos several weeks ago, with the trendy quicker picker uppers to follow suit very rapidly. If you are still brandishing such a photo in your blog, you may want to remove it in short order before the cool kids start to point and laugh.